Adventures in Photography, Fisheye Edition

August 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm 6 comments


I bought a new lens for my Nikon: a fisheye.

It just arrived last night, and today I went outside a few times to try it out in a few places around the alumni center and Old Main. The photo above is of Ridge Riley’s Bridge leading to the alumni center; if you click on the photo, you can see a larger, crisper version. (Our blogging platform, WordPress, compresses photos for some reason when it puts them into a blog post, and they end up looking softer than the full-size, freestanding versions do. I wish I knew how to stop that from happening.)

Anyway, I always thought a fisheye lens was more of a gimmicky lens, not something a serious photographer would use. Then I went to a photography workshop last month in Washington, D.C., where the subject matter was St. Matthew’s Cathedral, and the instructor lent us his fisheye for some shots. And I kinda liked what it could do. See this image, for example:


That didn’t strike me as gimmicky; on the contrary, I thought that the fisheye did a better job than my other lenses of capturing the elaborate grandeur of the cathedral’s nave. (Here again, click to see bigger.)

So I got to thinking about all the uses for a fisheye, including images of the interior of a packed Pegula Ice Arena—or a packed Rec Hall for a wrestling meet or perhaps the Dec. 14 basketball game. I’ve always loved this image that Steve Manuel ’84, ’92g took at a Penn State volleyball match in Rec Hall; I’m sure he used a fisheye lens to get it.

I did some reading online about the usefulness of fisheyes in photographing architecture, sports, landscapes … and pretty soon I had to have one.

I have a lot to learn about the lens: I know there are times when a fisheye is perfect and times when it’s just hokey. I also know that it’s a lens you should use sparingly; a little fisheye goes a long way. But for now, I’m just having fun playing with it.

Here are a few images from today. First, a shot of Robb Hall, inside our alumni center. This will be a much better photo when it’s packed with people, such as our Alumni Council meetings or some sort of reception.


Here is the pond in the alumni gardens, complete with a duck or two:


Here’s one of the “armillary sphere” outside Old Main:


And here’s a rather bizarre one of the same sculpture, taken from the opposite side, looking down toward College Avenue. It might be fine except for the Old Main tower peeking in at the upper left.


That’s a fisheye lens for you—it does distort things a bit.

Speaking of which, just for laughs, I’ll share with you the first photo I took with the fisheye after I took it out of the box last night. This is one of my cats, Eva, sniffing the new lens:


Trust me, she’s a much better-looking cat than that. You really need to click on this one to see just how ridiculous she looks.

Note to self: No photos of people or animals with the fisheye.

Tina Hay, editor

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. R Thomas Berner  |  August 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    I’m jealous.

  • 2. Trish Hummer  |  August 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Looks like fun! Which lens did you get?

  • 3. Clint  |  August 21, 2013 at 7:16 am

    A couple ideas for shots with the fish-eye:
    – From the floor of a packed Rec Hall
    – From a low angle on the Lion Shrine
    – 100 Thomas
    – West Halls mall
    – IST buildling

  • 4. Tina Hay  |  August 21, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Trish, I have a DX-style Nikon (the D7000), so I bought Nikon’s DX fisheye: the 10.5mm f2.8. Clint, thanks for the suggestions; I’ll have to give them a try! R Thomas, what can I say. :-)

  • 5. davidpsu  |  August 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing!

  • 6. Alexander John  |  August 21, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Great pictures! Keep on trying new things with fish eye. Good work.

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